Best Nintendo DS Games for Kids

by Chad Sapieha and Christopher Healy

Best Nintendo DS Games for Kids
Shop Story

Mario Brothers, brain teasers, cooking adventures, Dora and more – find them all in our roundup of the best Nintendo DS games for kids. Here’s how to choose the best video game console for your kids!


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Mario Kart 7 3DS


Mario goes 3D with the newest Mario game for the newest Nintendo gaming console. Mario takes drivers on three-dimensional adventures by racing, soaring through the sky or plunging deep beneath the sea.

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Tetris Axis


If the kids want to take a break from the other more active DS games, Tetris Axis is a good one to play. The game offers 20 different modes of play and makes kids think more spatially about how things fit with each other. Up to eight players can compete in wireless multiplayer battles as well for ultimate Tetris tournaments.

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Pokémon Rumble Blast 3DS


This is the first Pokémon game for the 3DS system and like other Pokémon games, it doesn’t disappoint. Rumble Blast lets gamers battle to defeat a Boss Pokémon character, and along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to collect Toy Pokémon and be champion. With the device’s built-in wireless connection, two lucky 3DS gamers can play simultaneously and battle together.

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Super Mario 3D Land


Mario leaps, runs and flies through 3D Land with the newest Mario game for the 3DS. Players can immerse themselves into Mario’s 3D environment and help Mario reach new heights through a series of adventurous designs and challenges.

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Super Scribblenauts


This creative sequel to the original Scribblenauts lets players not only tap out almost any noun they can think of to conjure up the object or creature it denotes, but also modify them with adjectives to change their appearance and characteristics. Tiny giants, furry tents, flying whales — they’re all possible in this wonderfully imaginative game that forces players to think hard in order to solve its more than 120 puzzles. Some levels might be tricky for younger players still growing their vocabularies and spelling abilities, but that just makes for a good excuse for grownups to join the fun to help them out.

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Professor Layton and the Unwound Future


The third entry in the Professor Layton series sees our top hat-loving professor and his apprentice, Luke, traveling through time to a near-future London that they hardly recognize. As with previous games in the franchise, players must work through in excess of 100 puzzles ranging from deceptively worded logic conundrums to tricky visual mazes as they solve a series of grander mysteries by chatting with non-player characters. Older kids craving a break from frenetic action and adventure games will enjoy the change of pace.

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Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies


An epic role-playing game that has players fighting a wide assortment of fantastical creatures, the ninth installment of this blockbuster series from Japan concerns an angel-like creature that has fallen to earth and must find his way back to the heavens. Players can customize not just their own avatar but also the appearance and abilities of the characters with whom they travel. Plus, they can share characters and even venture into other players’ game worlds via local wireless connections, a feature that has proven enormously popular with Japanese players and is beginning to catch on in the West.

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Picross 3D


Unlike its predecessor, which had players tapping flat squares out of existence to reveal two-dimensional pictures, Picross 3D sees players chipping away at large groups of cubes in order to reveal a hidden three-dimensional image beneath. Players remove cubes one by one according to hints about how many blocks in a given row have to stay. The game requires a capacity for simple logic and the ability to think a few moves in advance, but kids with patience and a knack for puzzle solving will be well rewarded.

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WarioWare D.I.Y.


Do your kids want to be game designers when they grow up? This is their chance to see what it takes!. WarioWare D.I.Y. teaches kids how to create extremely simple games from the ground up. They can draw their own characters and environments, create all of the game’s rules, and even compose their own music. If your kids aren’t interested in game design after all (it can be surprisingly complex), they can always play the pre-made micro-games available in the story mode.

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Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Miniland Mayhem


Donkey Kong has kidnapped Pauline, the guest of honor at the grand opening of a new amusement park. Mario’s plan to save her? Send in the minis! As in previous entries in the clever Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, players try to guide tiny automated Marios, who march through trap-filled 2D mazes, toward exits. Players draw ramps and bridges and decide whether to risk going for hard-to-reach coins and collectibles. It’s suitable for all ages, though younger kids may need help with the more challenging levels.

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My Baby 3 & Friends


The first game in this fun baby-simulation series had players caring for newborns, and the second advanced the series into the early stages of toddlerhood. With this third entry in the franchise, the babies have grown into toddlers, and players can take them to the park, swim, and even play with other children and a puppy. Of course, players still need to clean, feed, and dress the babies. Think of the game as a fun, interactive virtual doll. (Also available for Wii.)

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Art Academy


This deep and structured series of lessons is basically an art class on a Nintendo DS game cartridge, teaching players core techniques used in painting and drawing, using the stylus as a brush or pencil. Kids can take what they’ve learned in the game and apply it to real-world canvas and paper. If your kids have a Nintendo DSi or DSi XL, they can use the device’s built in camera to capture a still life or scene then reference it later. It’s a great way to cultivate your family’s budding Picasso.

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Alice in Wonderland


Inspired by Tim Burton’s film, this game doesn’t have much in common with its muse except its beautiful, slightly askew aesthetic. It’s a side-scrolling adventure game filled with contextual puzzles designed to make players put on their thinking caps to progress from one level to the next. As players encounter each of the story’s classic characters, they gain access to new skills, such as altering the flow of time, jumping off walls, and making objects disappear. Quirky and challenging, this game is best suited for older players unafraid of trying something a little different.

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Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver


These companion Pokemon games may revisit locations already explored in the franchise’s classic Gold and Silver editions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some surprises in store for the series’ fans — and we’re not just talking about improved graphics and a touch-screen interface. For starters, both games come with “pokewalkers,” pocket-sized devices to which pokemon can be transferred so players can have them earn experience while they walk. They can also have one pokemon follow along behind their human hero on screen. Of course, the real draw will be the pokemon themselves. There are hundreds here to be captured, keeping kids busy for months.

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One of the most creative games in, well, ever, Scribblenauts offers a truly unique experience to every person who plays it. In a crayon-colored world, your hero will be charged with diverse tasks-gather flowers, feed a hungry girl, rescue a princess, clothe a mannequin and so on.

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Ni Hao, Kai-Lan: New Year’s Celebration


Preschoolers can join young Nick Jr. heroine, Kai-Lan, and her animal friends for a full day of fun in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Through a series of age-appropriate games (goals include color matching, shape recognition, following rhythms, deciphering emotions through facial expressions and more), every step of the day is part of the game. Players wake up Kai-Lan’s friends, shop for food and prepare meals, join in the creation of decorations, enjoy parades and fireworks displays and everything in between. Young kids will be thoroughly engrossed.

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Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure


Making excellent use of the DS’s namesake dual screens, this unique adventure makes you feel like you’re playing two games at once. On the top screen, you’ll engage in classic Mario Bros.-style platform-jumping, monster-stomping action with the strangely likable hero, Henry Hatsworth – a derby-and-monocle-wearing, proper British gentleman. Meanwhile, on the touchscreen below, you’ll play a block-shifting, color-matching puzzle game. How you perform on one screen affects what happens on the other, making for frantic, fast-paced fun.

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Style Savvy


Young girls can test not only their fashion sense, but also their business acumen in this virtual boutique simulator. Players manage their own clothing shop, choosing everything from the decor to the music played over the speaker system – and, of course, the fashion for sale. Then they’ll have to wait on customers, listening to their specific style needs and putting together the perfect outfits for them. With over 10,000 apparel items to choose from, there’s obviously more than one solution to each fashion distress call.

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Cooking Mama 3: Shop & Chop


Future Top Chef contestants can hone their kitchen skills by chopping, dicing, and mixing with their DS styluses in the third installment of this popular cooking game series. The supportive Mama leads players step-by-step through dozens of recipes ranging in complexity from candied apples to Korean barbecue. There’s also a separate shopping game that requires players to steer, Pac-Man-like, through maze-like supermarkets, grabbing ingredients and avoiding other shoppers.


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Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story


In this imaginative adventure, Nintendo’s flagship characters, the Super Mario Bros., get accidentally inhaled by their archenemy, the dragon-turtle king, Bowser. Players lead them, Fantastic Voyage-style, on a microscopic journey through the bad guy’s insides – occasionally switching characters (and screens) to control Bowser on a mission of his own. It’s not all hopping and pounding, though; there’s a lot of story in this game – and genuinely funny writing elevates it to a whole new level.

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Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box


This follow-up to last year’s brain-teasing hit, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, once again challenge players intellect with mind-twisting, IQ-stretching puzzles. More than just a collection of quizzes, though, these puzzles all take place within an intriguing mystery about a legendary antique box that takes the life of anyone who opens it. The tale begins with a murder and the theft of the infamous box, and it’ll take a whole lot of brainwork to find the culprit.

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Touchmaster 3


Perfect for casual gamers – kids who don’t want to (or aren’t allowed to) spend hours working through a story-based adventure – this collection of mini-games provides great distraction for long car trips or other moments when mom needs her charges otherwise occupied. With twenty card games, puzzle games, pinball games, memory games and the like, there’s bound to be something for any kid to enjoy.

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The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks


For years, gamers could always count on the Legend of Zelda series to provide fast action, challenging puzzles, well-defined characters, and riveting stories. Spirit Tracks is no exception. Here, green-clad forest boy, Link, is once again saving the land of Hyrule from ominous forces, this time with a burly, armored, phantom sidekick. Traveling by train from one fantasy realm to another, Link and friend are set upon by strange enemies as they uncover intriguing plot twists, in this epic – and we mean epic – adventure.

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Dora the Explorer: Dora Puppy


Everyone’s favorite pre-tween explorer joins the virtual pet craze. In this ultra-cute game, kids care for and play with Dora’s very own doggie, Perrito. They’ll feed, clean, and teach tricks to the little brown pup, earning tokens along the way that they can use to purchase adorable canine clothing items and other puppy presents. Control of all the action is simplified for preschoolers. Any little one whose big sister wouldn’t let her play with her “big kid” Nintendogs game finally has a computer-generated pet of her own.